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Posts from the ‘Cocktails’ Category

Bottling mezcal cocktails the UK way

Longflint’s bottled mezcal paloma

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with James Law who is one of the forces behind Longflint beverages which are low ABV bottled cocktails. By low ABV, I mean low, to date their entire product line is under 6% ABV so these are the definition of quaffable or, to use another alcohol analogy, they’re session cocktails. Read more

Pouring their hearts into a glass


Monday, November 7th, saw eight bartenders throwing down for the grand prize title of our 2nd Annual Mexico in a Glass Cocktail Contest. For this contest we ask a lot of the bartenders —

  1. Create a unique mezcal cocktail recipe you think embodies Mexico.
  2. Batch your product to serve 70 people
  3. Submit to the judgement of the audience the audience
  4. Be creative with your set up.

And man oh man did they deliver. Read more

The latest sign that mezcal is making inroads into the mainstream

For all the accolades and press that mezcal has received, it is still an outlier when it comes to the mainstream bar world. That’s why when the San Francisco Symphony asked us for help in procuring mezcal for their big Opening Night Gala event we jumped at the opportunity. A major part of our mission is promoting mezcal so what better way to put mezcal front and center than at one of the most prominent cultural event in San Francisco? Read more

Cocktails, beer, mezcal and more – this Lucha is going to rock!

It would be fair to say that despite the fact that we do an awful lot of events, we don’t consider ourselves event planners. This is why we are such believers in collaboration. We always try to work with the best of the best who bring their game to whatever event we have going.

This is especially true of the upcoming La Lucha de La Cocina on August 13th at Pier 70 in San Francisco, a collaborative fundraiser for La Cocina, the non profit culinary incubator in San Francisco’s Mission District that helps <primarily immigrant> women start formal food businesses. In addition to the Lucha Libre and Taquiza (taco extravaganza) which we previously wrote about, there will also be three bars hosted by some of San Francisco’s most innovative bars and restaurants – ABV, Old Bus Tavern, and Novela. Read more

What are you fighting for? The ultimate Lucha Libre/Taquiza/Mezcal event!

What happens when you combine Lucha Libre, Tacos and Mezcal? We now have the answer – La Lucha de la Cocina! Mezcalistas is beyond excited to be working with La Cocina, one of the most amazing non profit organizations here in the Bay Area, and Pro Wrestling Revolution. This fundraising event will take place August 13th at Pier 70 in San Francisco. Read more

Meet Mezcal, Tequila’s smoky cousin


We are pleased to introduce our new correspondent on the ground Buzz Komil – this is his first piece for Mezcalistas…

So, there’s this amazing new spirit out of Mexico called mezcal. It’s kind of like tequila, but not really. It’s smoky, and mysterious, like that cousin you once heard of, you know, the one who lived out in the middle of nowhere and whose idea of a pimped ride was a donkey pulling a stone wheel.

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Mezcal launch party – La Palabra

Last night I had a chance to hit the launch party at Oakland’s Tamarindo for the new mezcal “La Palabra.” There is one type, an espadin from San Juan del Rio in Oaxaca. It comes in a beautiful square bottle which mimics the decanter found in the mezcalero’s home. At 50%, it is no wallflower and has a full bodied flavor to match.

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You wanted mezcal – We’re bringing you mezcal


As anyone who attended last year’s Mezcal: Mexico in a Bottle knows this event is not to be missed. It’s an opportunity to taste an incredible variety of mezcals and meet their makers while also sampling snacks from some of the best local restaurants and mezcal cocktails from all those creative bartenders who are getting written up in flashy magazines.

But this year we just had to go and make it bigger, badder, and better. First, why mess with success, the Grand Tasting is on November 15th at Public Works and will be very similar to last year’s event except that we’ll be adding mezcals and we’re going to have some very special tastings led by some of the most interesting people in the business. But keep in mind, only Mezcal Lovers tickets get access to those special tastings so choose wisely.

The preceding week will see a variety of special mezcal themed events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area including a US Bartender Guild juried competition for the best mezcal cocktail at Devil’s Acre on November 9th, special cocktail parties, dinners, a meeting with key figures in the industry, and more. As we say, check the schedule and get your tickets today.

But why stop there? November 8 – 15 is now officially Mezcal Week with special mezcal cocktails, flights, and snacks available at finer dining establishments and bars across the region. All participants are donating a portion of their proceeds to this year’s non-profit partner, the Mexican Museum. This is your opportunity to taste just how incredible and varied this transformative spirit is. If you can’t find something great on our list of participating venues then you don’t have a pulse.

So, join us and get your tickets today. Last year we sold out, don’t be left out in the cold!

Launching mezcal sustainably

Amarás cupreata

Last night Susan and I were fortunate enough to attend the formal launch tasting for Amarás’ cupreata at the rapidly assembling Cala, Gabriela Cámara’s much anticipated stateside restaurant. The focus of the evening’s conversation and speeches was clearly sustainability. Gabriela addressed the topic directly as she spoke of her her history at Mexico City’s well lauded Contramar which she launched 17 years ago as a seafood restaurant in a city hours from the nearest coast and more than a mile above sea level. As she explained last night, Mexico’s rather unique economic and political centralization means that pretty much all seafood flows through the capital before it’s shipped anywhere else which meant that she got the pick of Mexico’s freshest seafood.

The Cala margarita

The Cala margarita

Contramar is now a well established step on the international restaurant circuit and justifiably so. It’s tuna tostadas are reproduced by restaurants across the globe, it has a sister restaurant across town, and Mexican seafood is definitely of the moment. Cala is perched ready to ride that wave with a focus on seafood from Northern California but it was funny to hear Gabriela lament the limitations it poses. She wants her kitchen just to use local produce but keeps running up against how different it is from the ingredients in classic Mexican dishes. That’s the sense of place you get wherever you’re eating, fish in Veracruz, lobster in Maine, crab in San Francisco. Once you carry a national cuisine away from its native produce you get something different, if you embrace it you get a new hybrid like San Francisco’s Italian adapted to California = Zuni. Ditto for Berkeley’s California+France+Italy=Chez Panisse. From the tastes of octopus salad, halibut crudo, and a wild mezcal touched granita it’s clear that Cala is adapting nicely and will refresh the Northern Californian approach to seafood. While Mexican food is taking over the country this level of cultural and ingredient oriented adaptation is exactly what we need to inspire local home chefs as well as global restaurants.

The Cala halibut aguachiles and their unique martini.

The Cala halibut aguachiles and their unique martini.

But Cala’s opening is two, perhaps a few weeks away so we’ll all have time to truly appreciate it’s interpretation of Mexican in San Francisco. Last night was also dedicated to Amaras’ second bottle, a cupreata from Guerrero. Cala’s bar served up a trio of interpretations of classic cocktails which auger well for its future. Riffing off that whole conversation of cultural adaptation the margarita featured Amaras’ espadin along with citrus cane syrup, lime, and orange bitters for a refreshing version of the cocktail classic. From there it only got stranger because the martini zig-zagged across cultural boundaries combining Amaras espadin, Mandarin Napoleon, lime and fennel to arrive at a construction that is wholly of San Francisco’s current cocktail culture and no where else. Suffice to say that Cala’s idea of a Manhatten was equally adventurous. These cocktails will be part of Cala’s final cocktail menu and will be supplemented by many others inspired by the bounty of Northern California’s fruits and vegetables. We can’t wait to see what else they will present.

But wait: Weren’t we at Cala to taste mezcal? We tried it in cocktails but the best way to drink it is straight up which we certainly did in Amaras’ custom glazed copitas. I already have tasting notes for Amaras’ espadin which is widely available. The cupreata was released in time for this year’s Tales of the Cocktail and has been rolling out slowly across the country so you should be able to find it soon.

Amarás Cupreata


Maestro mezcalero: Don Faustino Robledo

Denominacion de Origen: Mazatlán, Guerrero

Agave: 13-year-old cupreata grown between 4,000-6,000 feet above sea level.

ABV: 43%

Guerrero Sierra Madre del Sur

Fields of cupreata in Guerrero’s Sierra Madre del Sur.

Like most cupreatas, Amarás’ interpretation is wide and fruity in the mouth. Unlike many it’s not overly viscous so it doesn’t coat your mouth. The flavor starts with big agave fruit and then thins out to an interesting vegetal mix of fresh bell peppers. As one taster noted that means that you could drink it all night long. I’m not sure about that level of hyperbole but it’s definitely elegant enough to sip over a long evening, especially if paired with food, preferably a dish with a bit of acid or spice like the halibut crudo that was served last night.

The funny thing is that the Amarás cupreata origin story has everything to do with food. While the company founders were out searching for a good cupreata in Guerrero they stopped at a roadside barbacoa, tasted the mezcal with the meat, thought ‘this is good,’ and kept going. It was only after tasting other mezcals and returning for more of the barbacoa that they realized it was clearly their favorite of the bunch. That food driven identity is something I’d love to see more of in the mezcal world. There’s nothing like BBQ and mezcal, sushi and mezcal, you name it – there’s a mezcal tailored to a dish.

So, why did we sandwich tasting notes in the middle of an article about sustainability? Well, among other things Gabriela also noted that Amarás is devoted to sustainability which is important in its own right and for the mezcal world as a whole because – all together now – mezcal comes from agave and if we don’t ensure that agave is sustainably cultivated there won’t be any for future weddings, funerals, and casual week night tippling.

I know that sustainability is a buzz word and one that’s deployed as a marketing term of art exactly because we’re all so hypocritical in our consumption of bottles of mezcal shipped thousands of miles but the bet is that we can improve this situation environmentally and economically. Call it transformative capitalism or coin your own term. Amarás is doing its part to pull all these disparate strands together. As Anchor’s brand representative, the wonderful Georgiana Green, noted the brand was founded by a social worker and focuses on giving back by making their product and process as sustainable as possible. Just like Gabriela’s limitations, Amarás has to work within constraints: They focus on environmental initiatives that reforest ten agaves for every one that is harvested for their mezcal and paying premiums to their mezcaleros while also contributing to their local communities. All that doesn’t make the mezcal taste better, that’s a given baseline, but the focus on sustainability as an integral part of a product is a good and important thing.

Amarás copitas

Amarás copitas

Quick look: Calavera Restaurant and Agave Bar

I had the lucky opportunity to check out Calavera Restaurant in Oakland ahead of its official open. This is Chris Pastena’s latest creation after Chop Bar, Tribune Tavern and Lungomare. I’d heard about Calavera a while back and was especially excited by their plans to stock more than 80 mezcals. I mean, how could I not be excited?

Located on Broadway, in a restored Julia Morgan building, it is a large, open restaurant with simple yet beautiful design that shines through with the hanging lights (not Edison lights!). The orangish back wall has very lightly and subtly embossed skulls, and a gorgeous long bar with a wall of mezcal that resembles a library because of the wheeled ladder used to access all the protruding boxes which contain all that precious mezcal.

And what a collection of mezcals – this place is serious. Pastena knows his stuff and has put together quite a list with specific selections from Mezonte, In Situ, and 400 Rabbits, plus the full collections from Vago, Del Maguey, Pierde Almas, Alipus, Mezcalero and more. Mezcal is served in ceramic copitas crafted by Oaxacan artist Omar Hernandez. It is this attention to detail that really shows the loving care put into creating this restaurant. There’s also a great list of cocktails – I tried the Sandia, a watermelon base with mezcal, salt air (foam), a sprinkling of chile de arbol and a watermelon garnish. Perfect for the heat of the evening.

The Sandia cocktail at Calavera

The Sandia cocktail at Calavera

Then there is the food… Chef Christian Irabien, whose background includes Oyamel Cocina Mexicana (Jose Andrés’ restaurant in DC) has crafted a unique menu that salutes tradition and simultaneously turns it around. We were a four top of serious and adventurous eaters and therefore were not shy at ordering as much as we could. Everything was delicious, from the ceviches to the refried beans to the chile relleno and to the grilled huachinango (oh how I love huachinango and so rarely eat it outside of Mexico.)

Calavera is the latest addition to Oakland’s collection of upscale Mexican restaurants which makes it quite a place to eat out. Between this latest addition, Tamarindo, Nido, and Doña Tomas it’s far easier for those of us on the east side of the bay to stay local while indulging our love for all things Mexican. I am greatly looking forward to spending some time at the bar, sipping my way through that list.

What was left of dessert

What was left of dessert

Copita of In Situ arroqueño

Copita of In Situ arroqueño

Grilled huachinango

Grilled huachinango

Guacamole with a side of chapulines

Guacamole with a side of chapulines